Yossi Sarid: Abbas must unilaterally declare Palestinian state

By Yossi Sarid, Haaretz – 13 Nov 2009

It is precisely now that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must not give up hope, and not because of the sweet nothings that Shimon Peres uttered at the rally in the square last Saturday night about people giving up hope in Ramallah. As if at the President’s Residence every day is Carnaval, and not only when he’s packing his bags for his trip to Brazil.

Abbas was right when he decided to announce he would soon resign: It is impossible to hold negotiations “without prior conditions” while settlement is going on. For 42 years Israel has been scattering prior conditions and faits accomplis all over, marking them with red tile roofs and making the peace process into nothing more than a never-ending process.

But before Abu Mazen quits, he has just one more job to do: He must declare, unilaterally, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Palestine now.

Both sides have a right to act unilaterally. Abbas owes it to his people, to himself, and to us. This week, there were reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds this possibility very scary, and he expects the Americans to nip it in the bud. But his nightmare is our only chance for an end to the occupation in our time.

When he declares independence, Abbas should call upon the Jews living in the state of Palestine to preserve the peace and to do their part in building up the new country as full and equal citizens, enjoying fair representation in all of its institutions. David Ben-Gurion would not have been upset by such a pretty act of plagiarism from his Declaration of Independence.

And thus, Abbas will become the Palestinian Ben-Gurion. Conditions were no less foggy and circumstances were no more certain when Ben-Gurion declared independence in 1948. But our founding father took the risk, and we are fortunate that he did.

The risk Abbas would be taking is much smaller. Of the 192 member states of the United Nations, over 150 would recognize a free Palestine, and it would soon become the 193rd. Although the American position is an unknown, it is hard to believe that Barack Obama would agree to drag America back into isolation now that it has begun to be part of the world again.

And what would Netanyahu do? Invade and re-conquer the West Bank? Restore the military government in the Muqata in Ramallah?

And what orders will Ehud Barak give his army? Serbia didn’t dare invade Kosovo after it declared independence, and even Russia the great didn’t allow itself to remain inside the sovereign territory of Georgia after their war.

Immediately after the declaration, celebrations will begin in the capital, East Jerusalem, and people from all over the world will join in, including Israelis. The masses of the House of Ishmael will carouse joyously through the city’s neighborhoods, and especially those neighborhoods from which they have been evicted by people with priestly pretensions. This will have to be joy without any manifestations of violence, not even one stone thrown.

This week, I phoned Abbas, after not having spoken to him for at least four years. I told him everything that I am writing now. I also told him something else: What happened to the wall in Berlin 20 years ago, and to apartheid a few months later, would also happen to the occupation: It will collapse, even if attempts are made to reinforce it with nails.

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